VII. ‘Rabid fan,’ national critic

Peter Gillette

TL: The LaWarchian takes a few football-related jabs. Concerning your relationship to sports, your speeches and writings haven’t exactly been the most pro-intercollegiate athletic as far as college presidents go -RW: Well, yes and no. I think I’ve been very pro-intercollegiate athletics on the Division-III level. I did have my ten, fifteen minutes of fame at the NCAA convention in 1987 when I gave a speech at the onset of the so-called reform movement, and that got a lot of play nationally. Some of the things I advocated are being incrementally done fifteen years later.

You know, I am a rabid fan of Lawrence athletics. I came at a time when the football team was a powerhouse. We went to the Division-III playoffs early on in my tenure, and I flew with the team to Dayton, where we got just whacked by the University of Dayton. And one of my great memories of that experience was sitting in the Dayton airport waiting for the flight back after the game, and there were guys sitting around reading “The Republic,” reading other textbooks, or studying or what have you, and to me that that really emblemized what student athletes are like and what intercollegiate athletics should be at its best. It was clear that the football team was an incredible powerhouse back then, at least in our conference, and so that was a lot of fun. There were some memorable games we won that I can recite with you but won’t.

Another great memory is when Amy Proctor came as women’s basketball coach the year after we had closed down the women’s season because the students didn’t want to play for the coach that we had. Amy was very young at the time we hired her. She took over the team. We were then in a conference called WIC-WAC – Wisconsin Intercollegiate Women’s Athletics Conference, not the Midwest Athletics Conference – and we finished fourth or fifth in the league and got into the tournament, and we won every game in the tournament. I mean, that was a great moment. Amy’s taken that team to the nationals, women’s softball team has gone to nationals, women’s soccer team has gone to nationals – so there have been a lot. That’s not the be-all end-all, and there have been a lot of exciting moments, including the men’s basketball team this year, that looked fabulous. Going to Alexander Gym for a basketball game and having a hard time getting a seat is a new experience for everyone, but it’s a fun experience